starring Jim Ruddle
After three years of government work (chasing icebergs in the North Atlantic and checking the weather in the Pacific for the US Coast Guard, as a radio operator) I came back to Tulsa and got hired by Dick Campbell, at KOTV, where Cy Tuma was the king of the hill, assisted by Don Norton, who did most of the news writing and scut work. Others there were Don Marvin, Lee Woodward, Bob Mills, Jim Newton, and, later, Noel Confer.
Anything for a buck, I did commercials (all live, tape didn't even get demonstated at the NAB convention until 1956), filled in as early morning news anchor, sang on a half-hour daily program called "Moments to Remember." God! it was awful. And most memorably, and to this day humiliating, I was "Zeta, on Satellite Six," dressed in helmet, goggles, and a uniform that belonged on an usher at a porn flick. We showed "Little Rascals" films and I introduced each one by looking into my "Zetascope" and waiting for the directors to dissolve into the film. It was worse than "Moments to Remember," but I didn't have to sing.
Great to read Jim Ruddle's comments. Jim, you should NOT be humiliated about your Zeta role. Man, it was cool. Never missed it. I still can do the "six" hand sign, which is the left hand up, back side to the camera, all five fingers extended, index finger of right hand placed across the back of the wrist of the left hand. And, by the way, where is Karzoff buried? I assume you eventually killed the bastard!
...About Karzoff: He's still alive and in your midst, in Tulsa, where he molests small animals.
Talking of kid's shows, there've been several mentions of Jim Ruddle, as Zeta. Also, some remembered the bad guy on the show, Karzov. Well, now it can be told. I was that villain. Yes I, fresh from playing the dramatic role of boy-hero, Elmer the Clown, on the "Uncle Hiram" show on KVOO-TV. I moved to KOTV and was relegated to Zeta's arch enemy. (or was it, arch enema?) I have it on good authority that Jim still has his Zeta suit, and had been known to wear it to church.
Uncle Hiram had been in show biz since Moby Dick was a sardine. He had worked Vaudeville, "the Nat'l Barn Dance" from Chicago and recorded comedy songs, as part of "Hank and Hiram". He had a million stories and I expect one or two of them were true. It was ad lib city with us. The camera men were always breaking up and losing their shot. Much of our material was inside and much of it off-color. Nothing the kids ever caught and no complaints from parents...who probably never watched. It was terrible TV but a real romp for those of us involved. It was very important to me as was paid $5.00 a show.
Thinking back over all the years....my first TV experience was as a guest in the gallery on the Uncle Hiram Show on KVOO (when they were operating our of the old Akdar Building).
I grew up in Okmulgee in the 1950's and just ran across your homepage. Uncle Hiram had a talent portion on his show and I sang on the show twice in 1955-1956. Seeing the pictures of the old KVOO building and the KVOO control room with the set in the background really brought back a treasure load of memories.
I am sorry it took me so long to find this site. In the mid to late 50's, I was cameraman at both Channel 2 and Channel 6.
In those days, 6 was much more professional but not near as much fun. Oh! the tales I won't tell. However, I can say that I ran camera on Lee Woodward's audition and I was the one who put vodka (from a bootlegger) in Uncle Hiram's 7-up cup on live TV. Never missing a beat, he smacked his lips and asked for more.
When I was being Zeta (gasp!) I frequently had to follow the show with a live commercial at the other end of the rather long KOTV studio. Because I was garbed in that goofy uniform, I wore a shirt and tie underneath so that I could be ready when I got down to the commercial set near the news desk. I had one of those old three-inch long lavaliere mikes hanging around my neck during the spaceman's stint, and I left this on for the following spot. This meant that as soon as I committed Zeta to oblivion for another day, I had to get out of the helmet, goggles, and caped tunic and race the length of the studio, put on a jacket, and be cool, calm, and not breathless when the camera came on one minute later.
Ordinarily, this worked all right, but one evening, as I galloped across the studio, shedding the costume and wriggling into a sport coat, I stepped on the trailing mike cord. As I stepped on the cord, the lavaliere lanyard popped its snap closure and the damned thing slid down my stomach. "Son of a bitch!" I snarled sweetly. Then, horrified, I noticed that the red camera light had gone on at the same time, meaning my mike was hot. I don't know how I got through the spot--they were all memorized, of course--because I was sure that I was going to be fired as soon as I finished. I concluded the commercial, and walked out of the studio like Killer Mears going to the electric chair.
To my great surprise, no one ran up to me and told me I was through. In fact, no one ran up to me at all. Apparently, the mike switch was thrown a split-second after I had begun my expletive, and only the last fragment came through. The single comment I heard was when somebody asked if I had sneezed just before starting the spot.
(Photo of Jim Ruddle at WGN in 1965)
As kids, we were completely in the dark about Dad's early broadcasting days, although well familiar with his dignified persona as an anchor, correspondent, and commentator.
One day my brother, at the time in high school, happened across a Zeta Squadron crewman card while rummaging around in the basement. This listed all the rules a crewman should follow and the attributes a crewman should possess. Having no idea of either what the Zeta Squadron was or who the squadron leader had been, and finding the card absolutely hilarious, he managed to persuade my (reluctant) mother to help him get a set of business cards printed up. Faithful to the original, albeit slightly more modern-looking, they were handed out to his many friends at school, where the Zeta Squadron enjoyed quite some popularity. He even brought some cards along on a trip to visit relatives in Tulsa and Texas, which eventually led to the cat being let out of the bag, when one of the relatives asked my mother "Why, don't they know?" Imagine our surprise (and unholy glee) when we were finally filled in on the finer points of Zeta history.
Of course, we had to swear not to tease Dad about it, in fact I think we had to swear we wouldn't let on that we knew anything at all. (Oops- Sorry, Dad.) I still have my card.
All my children are rats, and Valerie is the worst.
For oldtimers--Don Norton, take heed--here's a picture of Kazuo Gomi and his wife having dinner with my daughter, Lt. Col. Valerie Sloan, in Tokyo a couple of months ago. Gomi was an intern at KOTV in the mid-fifties.
Mr. Gomi was first mentioned here in Guestbook 74. His son found the site in #83, then we heard directly from Mr. Gomi in #84.
I grew up in Fayetteville, Ark. Watched Tulsa TV... ZETA on Satellite 6 made me what I am today. Found an email for him on yer site, wrote, and Zowie !! got a return email from my hero.
Thanks for the site and all the info. Didn't Will Rogers Jr. host an early morning show? (probably late 50's)